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Attorney Stephen H. Gordon
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The Gordon Law Firm, P.C.
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San Antonio, Texas
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Attorney Stephen H. Gordon
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The term "General Civil Cases" refers to a variety of other disputes that generally have to do with property or money. Our firm handles some of these types of cases, but not others. For example, we do not handle landlord/tenant or car repair disputes. But we do handle many types of land, property business, and contract disputes. We also handle defense of defamation cases involving libel and slander.

Give us a call if you have a dispute that may fall into any of those categories. If you are not sure, then cal anyway and we will find out.

THE PROCESS OF HANDLING A CIVIL CASE FROM BEGINNING TO TRIAL

     EVALUATING THE CASE

Before we take any case to trial we must perform a thorough evaluation of the merits of the case. We have to make sure our client can establish that they has a legal basis for their claim for relief.

It is not enough to show that the other party did something that you didn't like or that upset you. In some cases it is not even enough to show that the other party actually harmed you. You need to show that the there is a specific provision of the law that allows you to recover damages for that type of behavior.

     STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Before proceeding with a case we must also make sure it is not too late to pursue the client's claims. We have to check the "statute of limitations" for the type of case at issue and make sure it is not too late to file a lawsuit. We also have to make sure it is not too late to comply with any required notices that must be given to the other party. Some of these notices are required within as soon as 180 days after the event which is the subject of the claim.

     DEMAND LETTER

It is common practice to send a demand letter out to the other party before a lawsuit is filed. The letter lays out the facts showing why one party is liable to the other and why they should pay compensation or take certain requested action. The other party is then given a specific # of days to comply with the request.

      FILING A PETITION

If the person does not respond to the demand letter, then it may be time to take more drastic action. It may be necessary to file a lawsuit against them.

A lawsuit begins with one party filing a "Petition". This document is basically a request for the court to provide some sort of specific relief to a party. In some cases, the request is for financial compensation from the other party. In other cases, it may be a request for property. It may also contain a request to order the other party to engage in some some specific type of action, or prevent them from doing something.

The party who files the suit is referred to as the "Petitioner." The other party is referred to as the "Defendant" or the "Respondent."

     COUNTER-SUIT

There are some risks to filing a lawsuit in the State of Texas. The Defendant party may decide to file a "counter-suit" against the Petitioner. The Defendant may then seek to recover damages from the Petitioner. If successful, the Petitioner could then end up paying damages to the person they were seeking to recover from!

Worse yet, in some cases, the losing party may have to pay the other party's attorney's fees and expenses. This is why it is important to think long and hard about filing a lawsuit against someone.

     TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER & INJUNCTIONS

At the same time we file the lawsuit, we may also want to file for a Temporary Restraining Order. In order to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), you must show that you are about to suffer some sort of irreperable damage in the case and need immediate help. It is common practice to file for a TRO in family law cases.

     THE "DISCOVERY PROCESS"

After a lawsuit is filed in a case, each side is entitled to obtain information from the other party. They are also allowed to demand the production of documents and other materials relevant to the case. They make these demands for this information through the "discovery" process.

These discovery requests come in 4 different types of documents:

 Requests for Disclosure;
 Request for Admissions;
 Request for Interrogatories; and
 Request for Production.

          30 DAYS TO RESPOND

When one party sends these requests out, the other party has only 30 days to respond to them in the proper format. If this happens in a case we are handling for you it is very important that you review and respond to the materials quickly. You must do your best to provide accurate responses to each question. Some of them have to be answered under oath.

In regards to the production of documents, you need to get all the ones you in your possession together. We understand that you may not know how to answer certain questions, and may not have certain documents in your possession. This is ok. Just let us know which ones you do have and provide them to us. We prefer that you type up the answers to the questions and e-mail it to us instead of handwriting it.

          WE MAY OBJECT TO CERTAIN REQUESTS

There may be requests that are inappropriate or completely irrelevant to your case. If so, we will object to them on your behalf. So, just because you turn a requested document over to us doesn’t mean that we are automatically going to send it to the other side. However, we need you to send them to us for review so we can determine whether or not we can properly object to the request.

Because there is a 30 day deadline to prepare these responses and send them back to the other side, you must act quickly. We need to have at least a week to review your responses and edit them. Do not wait until the last minute to turn the information over to us or it may hurt your case. If we do not send them back to the other side in time, they can object to the admission of documents, and/or ask the court to sanction you for non-compliance.

     HEARINGS

When a lawsuit is filed it usually ends up with both parties going to court eventually to ask a judge or jury to rule in their favor. Unfortunately, the court system is very overloaded because there are so many people who need help and not enough judges and courtrooms to take care of all of them.

This can be very frustrating because a person can end up waiting at the courthouse all morning long for a simple hearing. Sometimes the may have to come back after lunch if the court is particularly crowded that day, or if they have a case that is going to take more than a couple of hours to resolve. In rare cases, they may even have to come back the next day.

     GOING INSIDE THE COURTROOM IS A SERIOUS PROCESS

Dealing with the court system is a very serious process, and that if a party does not comply with the court rules and procedures, they could be punished financially, or in extreme cases with actual imprisonment. It is very important that you agree to follow the advice of the Firm in terms of how to handle your legal situation, and comply with all legal requirements, such as timely responding to requests, and attendance at any court hearings, depositions, mediations, or other legal proceedings requiring your actual presence.

Some of the basic rules of court are: dress professionally (no shorts or t-shirts); no hats; no chewing gum; and no disruptions. Even if the other party is up on the witness stand telling 1 lie after another, you must maintain your calm. If you have witnesses with you who cannot keep their cool, they could be ordered to leave the courtroom.

     DEPOSITIONS

Another part of the court process involves taking the "deposition" of a party or witness. If so, that person has to show up at one of the attorney's office and answer questions from the other attorney under oath. Their testimony is recorded by a court reporter, and sometimes even video-taped. This can be a very intimidating process, but we will help you practice and prepare for this process.

     MEDIATION

Once the parties have completed the discovery process, depositions, and any pretrial hearings, they can set the case for trial. However, before the parties can have a trial in Bexar County, they must first go through the "mediation" process. This means they must go to a separate hearing with a person known as a "mediator." This person tries to work with both parties to reach an agreed settlement in the case to avoid trial. The parties are not forced to settle the case, but they do have to show up and negotiate "in good faith."

      TRIAL

When it comes to setting a case for trial, it can take awhile. At the very least, each side has to give the other side 45 days notice. It is often set 2-3 months down the line due to attorney's needing to coordinate their schedule with each other and the court.

For jury trials, the wait is usually much longer. The average case will not get set for a jury trial for at least 6 months to a year. Even when a case is set for jury trial it may have to be postponed. The court coordinators make it a habit of setting several different trials for the same day. They assume that some of these cases will settle before trial, but that is not always the case.

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO GO ALL THE WAY TO TRIAL, YOU MUST BE PATIENT. WE CAN HELP YOU GET THERE AND EXPLAIN THE PROCESS TO YOU STEP BY STEP.

General Civil Cases - General Info